Google and Virgin to conquer Mars … opensourceing it!

UPDATE: thanks to the comment by Vincenzo, I now know this was a April 1st fool! Thanks Vincenzo! The application form with its strange questions could have me realize that! Example:
# I am a world-class expert in
medicine and first aid
Guitar Hero II

Project Virgle, the first permanent human colony on Mars, by Google and Virgin.
The vision is heavily based on Open Source and Crowdsourcing. Clever move, both from PR perspective and from practical perspective!

It comprises three equal partners: Google, Virgin and a diffuse network of talented individuals who want to participate in our mission.

Who do I see as the perfect leader for this project? Yochai Benkler, fabolous author of the book “The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom” and of “Sharing Nicely: On shareable goods and the emergence of sharing as a modality of economic production”, most inspiring paper I ever read.

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A post-post-industrial economy
What does “open source” mean in the context of a distant, planet-wide, century-long enterprise? Today’s industrialized (and post-industrialized) (and, one imagines, post-post- industrialized) economies are sustained not so much by physical wealth as by advanced systems of shared knowledge whose marginal productivity grows as more is accumulated. “Shared,” however, doesn’t mean valueless; we see Virgle as a decidedly for-profit venture that will develop most efficiently via decentralized models of effort, authority and reward. If the first economic revolution was agricultural, the second industrial and the third digital, the fourth will be Open Source — the birthing of a planetary civilization whose development is driven by the unbound human imagination.

We want to engage, one might say, the Long Tail of human creativity. Instead of 5,000 people working 12 hours a day six days a week in exchange for a full salary and benefits, imagine 5 million people working a few hours a week in exchange for contribution-based equity in the form of shares in Virgle Inc and ownership of the land of which the colony will ultimately take some form of possession.

You weren’t thinking real estate? Start. Virgle’s costs will be considerable — we’re planning on up-front investments of $10-15 billion in the first two decades –- but so too will the colony’s long-term earnings. Whatever one’s interpretation of the Outer Space Treaty, for instance, it seems clear that the initial explorers and developers will be able to claim ownership of some significant portion of 143 million square kilometers of Martian real estate, which, sold (or traded as open-source sweat equity) at an average value of $10 per acre, would be worth a cool $358 billion. Multiply that by 100x for its post-terraforming value and you get a figure of $36 trillion. Clearly, whatever model of real estate distribution our emerging society adopts, its worth will exceed the investments likely to be required to unlock that value.

Our civilization’s most valuable export, meanwhile, will be intellectual property. The problems our Pioneers solve in the course of their world-building enterprise will represent an engine of invention in dozens of lucrative areas, from biotechnology to geology, physics to agriculture. We see the community’s system of intellectual property development evolving from a community open source model to commercial open source (or perhaps we mean that the other way around?). We can imagine that commons-based peer production model — in which the creative energy of large numbers of people is coordinated into large, meaningful projects, mostly without traditional hierarchical organization or direct financial compensation — extending to almost every imaginable aspect of Martian life.

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